Advert Existence

I'm really slow to realizing that late-night talk shows is just a sequence of different people promoting a thing. A movie, or an album, or sometimes just a brand. 

For some reason, my brain was happy to think that it was just talk shows finding interesting people. 

And then recently, it was like "oh, it's advertising." But honestly, I'm already too jaded to really take much offense. 

What's stranger to me lately is reading comment threads (I know, mistake) on tech sites when they review something. Almost every comment is some variation of "man, this site is shill for this brand" or "thanks for the advertisement." 

It made my brain hurt. Because to me, an ad is content that extols the benefits of a product. And a review is content that extols the benefits and flaws of a product. That's enough of a differentiator that I, again, have another thing I never questioned too deeply. 

But my shortcomings is not the point right now. The interesting thing is that is everything an advertisement now? Have we started to curate our digital and physical selves to the point where we ourselves are brands. And thus any speak to associate to any other brand or product an implicit ad?

What does it mean when we use a hashtag that someone else started? 

What's organic versus a curated ad? 

If George Clooney goes on a late night show, but has a genuine conversation, what does that mean to you, me, or everyone? Even if it's Sony Pictures that got him in the situation in the first place? 

Toolbox

This is more of a reminder to myself. But the idea that everyone learns the tools. But experience lets me have an instinct of when a tool is best for any particular moment.

The burden is still on me to use the tool correctly. But at least I'm not fumbling around deciding if a screwdriver or a hammer is better.

If you just do this…

Warning: there will be hypocrisy by the end.

I woke up reading Twitter. It's a thing I do. And this morning there was tweet of basically "there's a qualitative and qualitative difference if you read a book, meditate, eat a meal than starting your day with screen time."

And I'm like, "Okay, I'm done." 

I'm done with advice that's only about explicit changes in activity. 

If you only stopped deleted this app with your phone. If you only stopped eating gluten. If you only used spaces instead of tabs while coding. If you only swam 20 minutes after eating. If you only stopped and smelled the roses.

Bitch, what if I'm allergic? 

I have no qualms about bettering yourself, nor any problems with reframing how you see life. 

But what I'm tired of is people neglecting to articulate both the underlying mechanism of mindfulness, and its inherent costs and difficulties.

I agree that everyone, including myself, falls into habits that may be bad or detrimental. But it's not always as straightforward as to just drop them. I remember being exposed to fad diets. I forget the names of all of them. But it doesn't matter, what I do remember is how many many people talk about short-term gains only to rubber band back to the median.

It implicitly told me that simply deleting, whether it's carbs or an app, doesn't always solve the problem. Especially when the person may not understand the problem in the first place.

Throughout my 20s, I would get low-grade anxiety. Whenever I'd get an episode, it'd be subtle because I often wouldn't recognize. But my body would. It express itself in eating just a little more at each meal. I would stock up on snacks, and basically self-medicate with stress eating. 

No Atkins, or South Beach Diet, or gluten-free change would have addressed that anxiety. 

It wasn't until I was 28-29 when I finally did a two-pronged attack. First, a therapist. Talking it out, and doing the hard emotional work. And he would give me the second prong, the tools to recognize when my mental state was changing. To be mindful of the changing context of my environment and myself. 

So I bristle at life advice that fits in a tweet. They lack too much awareness of where someone is at in life to be really useful. (I would even dare suggest it can hurt more than help.)

Also, worst is they don't take the time to say it's hard. So hard. Take something fairly straightforward. Like exercise. It should be a no-brainer. 

But for someone like me, it meant giving up time from things I love like making art and coding websites. I had to take time to find reasons why I spend time on something that wasn't my life's work. Not to mention, exercise also meant I had to assess my own sense of self-image. I had to confront that my body wasn't where I imagined it would be. That it was weaker than I thought it was. More frail. More brittle. 

Rarely is one thing in your life exists solely in isolation with itself. Food is tied to health is tied to activity is tied to schedule is tied to emotions is tied to mental state, etc. 

So if there's one thing you do today is stop taking advice that sounds too pithy. 

Growth

What's is growth?

I'm not sure yet, so this is a placeholder.

I think it's adapting to an ever-changing context. Although, that's a slippery phase that could also mean "just getting by."

Maybe a skillful way to apply past experiences to a present problem. Gaining a certain efficiency to how to do things. But that could lead to hardening and stubbornness.  

Maybe it's being even aware of that. I hear "stay youthful and childlike and curious" a lot. Maybe it's knowing when to be child-like and then adult-like. 

Or maybe it's learning to admit when you picked the wrong execution. That seems like a nice side companion to growth. An auxiliary maybe.

I dunno. 

Midlife Crisis

I've found myself referencing a podcast episode frequently. It's Philosophy Bites, and the particular episode is an interview with Kieran Setiya. He researches the phenomenon of the midlife crisis. But he speaks a lot to the type A sort of person. The category of people who are actually successful, and yet suffer from malaise. 

I'm fascinated because I find myself with the same feelings. It's only 12 minutes, so it's worth a coffee break to listen over.

But basically, if you're accomplishing tasks such as publishing a paper or designing websites. It can be deeply satisfying and significant. And so in a career, you'll publish a paper, and when you finish, you'll start on the next one. And finishing that one will be satisfying and significant. But then what? Publish another, and another, and another? There's a monotony to the pattern despite doing something you enjoy and love.

So Setiya speaks to two categories of tasks: telic and atelic. Telic tasks end at some point. Like publishing a paper. While atelic don't tend to end. Many people have telic tasks and goals. And while they can satisfying, these tasks eventually end. So you can feel like you're constantly "emptying" into these goals that eventually flutter away.

While, atelic goals never really end. So you're always engaged in an evergreen category. The example they use "talking to philosophers." There's more to talk to about, and more people to meet. So it's ever refilling. Also, when you're talking to philosophers, you're ever present in that because in the moment, you're talking to philosophers as much as you ever could. There's isn't a bigger or longer paper to publish. You 100% talking to a philosopher. There's a fullness to that.

I don't know how to translate this into my life just yet. But it's intrigues me.  

Eyeballs

I can't determine how important eyeballs are. Does something I create need an audience? 

Is making something for my own pleasure enough? Or should 50,000 people be enjoying it? Or 100? Or 5? 

Will I ever make anything that hits a million YouTube views? Or thousands of shares? Or likes? 

Do I need that to have accomplished something? Or at its worst, need the validation?

I suspect the nuance is that it varies. That some projects should be for my own edification. And if it happens to take off then deal with that upon crossing that bridge.

But as for the other projects...how many eyeballs are needed to be considered successful? Or does it scale? Does the metric change over time? 

The optimist in me imagines that surely with seven billion people and the internet, anything can have its audience. If you build it, they will come. 

But eyeballs isn't something I've explicitly expected from my personal art projects. Maybe I should get a hype man. 

Car Chaining

You're going to a party. No driving, you're calling a Lyft ride. You get in, and start heading to the destination. Your friend, John, texts you about how you're getting there. You offer to share your ride, he says "yes," and so adjust your route accordingly.

They mention that Suzie is actually nearby at a coffeeshop. A bit of texting later, and you add her to the route too. Dale totally forgot about the party, but now wants to go. So does Lynn. You add them too, why not? It's more that way.

But halfway to Dale, the car dies. It's 2025, and all the taxis are fully automated and electric. It had enough miles to take you from your place to the party. But adding everyone put it over the battery level. 

Is it smart enough to logistically connect to another Lyft for a transfer with enough mileage?

Free Hammers

This era has forced us to figure out how to be CNN. (Heck, CNN is trying to figure how to be CNN.) Our innocuous social media platforms that store our selfies, and restaurant check-ins, and diary posts reach further and faster than what newspapers and television have wanted since ever. But that comes with ramifications we're still struggling to realize (I'm perfectly happy to switch that "we" pronoun with "I.")

One being we having surprising little control on our intended audiences. (Something I severely missed seeing in Snapchat early on.) It's hard enough to shape a conversation with someone or a small group. But even a simple food shot hits your family, close friends, friends that weren't invited to dinner, that creepy guy who you met once at a party, people looking for a restaurant, people finding hashtags, foodies, sorta-foodies, etc.

And in the light of political conversations where the issue is inherently complex, such lack of control makes the conversation seem unwieldy and unproductive. 

I think about the safety pin symbol meant to show solidarity. Within 24 hours, there was already backlash and divergent tangents, but all in the same news feed. 

The difficulty for me was just to parse the threads, much less form an coherent position on the issue. I didn't have to the tools to acknowledge, or to shape the blooming conversation. 

On top of that, how could I productively add to the conversation? Would I just be adding to the noise? Would I make thing worse? And should I be serious? Am I allowed to make a joke? Does lightening the mood diminish the import of the situation? 

We've been given hammers taped to rocket launchers, and there's a feeling that something of the sort could be useful. But I'm still struggling to figure out how to not blow off my own hands with the thing.